I am not very superstitious, but it seems that a lot of Italians are.
It seems that many people in Italy strongly believe that some things might bring bad luck and it is a common belief that people are generally more superstitious in the south of the country.
I honestly do not know if this is true but it is a fact that we Italians have a close relationship with superstition and, even if we do not believe in certain behaviors or rituals, they are undoubtedly part of our culture. This means that people might not accept certain beliefs but they certainly come up here and there in daily life.
And this is exactly why I have decided to write this post, which is basically intended as a fun overview of the most common beliefs that are part of superstition in Italy.
Let’s start with one of my favorites: if someone sweeps over your feet while cleaning the floors, you will never get married. I like it because nobody really believes this, but people keep saying that. So if you are at someone’s place and they are sweeping the floors, you can say: “Non spazzarmi i piedi perché altrimenti non mi sposo!” (don’t sweep over my feet or I won’t get married).
There’s another belief which is related to marriage: if you are the last one drinking from a bottle of wine, you’ll never get married. I really don’t know where this belief comes from but this shows quite clearly that getting married is a very important issue, here in Italy, don’t you think?
Speaking of parties and celebrations, there are some things you need to be careful about. If you are toasting, make sure to touch everybody’s glass and look fellow toasters in the eyes while clinking glasses: failure to do so brings very bad luck.
And I honestly have to admit that this is something we all really pay attention to. If we are toasting and someone starts touching someone else’s glass, we all have to do the same: there is no other option, the whole party needs to do it otherwise “porta sfortuna!” (it brings bad luck).
Also, we are very careful never to cross arms when shaking hands in a group. As with toasting, I am sure nobody really believes that these things bring bad luck but we just make sure not to do them. It’s part of our shared culture, it’s in our DNA maybe.
Superstition has to do with numbers too. I know that in some countries 13 is a very bad number. Well, here in Italy, 13 is considered a lucky number, while we all fear the number 17. Better be careful and do not plan anything important on a Friday 17, because it is considered a very bad day.
Funnily enough, although 13 is considered to be a lucky number, Italians believe that you should never sit at a table with other 12 people: 13 at the table brings very bad luck because Jesus ate with 12 disciples and one of them betrayed him. Thank God, not very many people I know abide by this rule because it can be quite embarrassing – and problematic – when it comes to organizing dinners and parties.
Needless to say, superstition in Italy involves death as well. For example, they say that you should never put a hat on a bed because it’s bad luck. This comes from the fact that, in the past, when priests were visiting people on their death bed, they used to remove their hat and place it on the bed.
Moreover, a bed must never face the door because it replicates the position of the coffin in a church. I don’t know how many people follow this rule but I have to admit that my father strongly believes it. When he moved house and realized that there was no other way of placing the bed, he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Well, just for your information, thirty years have passed since he moved and he is still doing great.
How can you fight bad luck?
Well, there are a lot of things that bring good luck! If you are scared that something bad may happen, just tocca ferro (touch iron, which is like touching wood in English). If you need a lot of money, instead, you can eat loads of lentils on New Year’s Eve: they will bring money during the year (spoiler: I do it every year and nothing has changed so far).
A nice, red corno (horn) will protect you against bad luck and malocchio (evil eye) and, in general, if you want to keep bad luck away, you can always fare le corna (the sign of the horns) and say “tiè!“.
To make such a gesture, extend your index and little fingers while holding down your middle and ring fingers with your thumb, and point your hand downwards. While doing this, be careful to point them downwards because if you hold your hand upwards and you direct the gesture at someone, it signifies that he or she is a cuckold and it is not very well accepted, let me tell you.
And what about you? Are you superstitious? What are the most common beliefs in your country?
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